Echoes of War (2015)
James Badge Dale plays Wade, an ex-Confederate who returns home from Texas after the Civil War, looking for peace. He’s unscathed physically, but not mentally. While he jokes about his war experience, he’s also haunted by it, while awake and in his dreams.
He takes up with the Rileys, the family of his sister, who died of illness during the war. Dad Seamus feeds his family and makes a meager living running a trap line and selling furs with the help of his young son Samuel and his teenage daughter Abigail.
Those trap lines are frequently raided by the neighboring McCoskey family. Their oldest son died during the war, leaving his mother Doris half mad with grief. The Confederates confiscated most of the family’s cattle, leaving father Randolph (William Forysth) a bitter man.
His two sons, Dillard and Marcus, assist in the thievery, the former a half-wit who eagerly does his father’s bidding, the latter far more reluctant, because he dreams of a future with Abigail. In fact, they secretly meet whenever possible.
Neither family seems bothered by the status quo. Families have been made desperate by the war, Abigail tells Wade. Besides, the McCoskeys don’t take that much, says Seamus, who relies on the Bible to guide his every move.
But Wade is certain his late sister wouldn’t approve of just sitting by and watching the McCoskey steal from her family. And so he confronts first Randolph, then Dilliard, then Marcus, setting off a dangerous chain of events.
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, this film isn’t it. If you’re looking for a better than average current low-budget Western, it fits the bill.
The characters are mostly predictable. Of course, the young son (Samuel) is going to idolize his war hero uncle over his dad, who sat out the war, but apparently works quite hard to keep food on the table for his family. And, of course, one member of the Riley family would be romantically involved with one member of the McCoskey family, both fretting as tensions between the neighbors grow.
But James Badge Dale is particularly solid as the war veteran who walks into a two-family dynamic he isn’t familiar with and relies on his war instincts to set things straight, only to make everything worse. He’s a man seeking peace who creates his own private war. Also solid is Ethan Embry, as the man who somewhat reluctantly takes in his brother-in-law, only to be criticized for his reliance on religion as his guiding light.
The ending is particularly good.
James Badge Dale … Wade
Ethan Embry … Seamus Riley
William Forsythe … Randolph McCluskey
Maika Monroe … Abigail Riley
Rhys Wakefield … Marcus McCluskey
Beth Broderick … Doris McClus key
Ryan O’Nan … Dillard McCluskey
Owen Teague … Samuel Riley
Runtime: 100 min.
Randolph McCluskey, to Marcus: “Mind telling me how a son of mine can wind up so god-damned useless.”
Seamus Riley: “You know, when I was about your age, my pa, he asked me what I would do if I came across a wolf. Would I panic and run off? Would I try to scare it off? Or would I just leave it be and act like I never saw it to begin with?”
Samuel Riley: “Kill it.”
Seamus: “Even if it never did me harm?”
Samuel: “It could.”
Randolph McCluskey: “Don’t go dancin’ around the maypole , son. Sounds like you got something to say.”
Wade, wondering how the McCluskey are surviving with their cattle all gone: “I’m not dancing. I’m just curious, is all.”
Father McCluskey: “Curious? Man oughta be careful, messin’ around in another man’s business.”
Wade: “Couldn’t have said that better myself.”
Wade to Seamus: “You know, in the war, I saw a lot of men get down on their knees and start praying. They died, all the same. Sometimes in this life, you need to do things for yourself.”
Wade, telling a story of two dogs he trained, then killed at a general’s request during the war: “I think about them dogs a lot. It wasn’t their nature to kill. And I was training them to go against it. If you do that to God’s creatures long enough, something’s gotta give.”
Tagged with: Beth Broderick
• Echoes of war
• Ethan Embry
• James Badge Dale
• Kane Senes
• Maika Monroe
• Owen Teague
• Rhys Wakefield
• Ryan O'Nan
• William Forsythe